Read Twist Online

Authors: Dannika Dark

Tags: #paranormal fantasy

Twist (7 page)

BOOK: Twist
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“Sunny took it all pretty well. You two couldn’t be more opposite. I can see why you get along; she’s a good girl.”

“Are you implying that I’m the bad influence?”

“No comment from the peanut gallery.”

“Justus is being unreasonable. He led me to believe it was a law that we had to sever human ties, but they were his laws, not the Mageri’s. There’s no reason that I can’t spend time with Sunny. I finally have someone I can talk to.”

“Now I’m hurt by that,” Adam said. “You don’t want to share your feelings with me,
girlfriend
?”

I flicked my finger on the back of his neck. “Don’t be ridiculous. Anyhow, it’s not the—hey, what’s this?” I pulled a photograph from the inside sleeve of his wallet. It was cut to fit the pocket perfectly. I expected to see a picture of Adam’s sister, instead, my fingers held a picture that once hung in a frame in my apartment. It was an old picture of me sitting on a rug in my bedroom when I was a human.

“Where did you get this?”

“The night we went back to your apartment. It’s a nice picture and I wanted to keep it.”

“Why?”

“It’s you.”

“It
was
me.”

“That’s the real you, Silver. That’s the girl I found.”

Something snapped. I flicked it into his lap. “You see that picture and you think that’s me?” His eyes fell on the image.

“Keep it,” I said sharply.

He frowned and tucked the picture back in his wallet. “Why are you mad? It’s only a photograph.”

“You’re holding on to a girl who doesn’t exist, someone you never even knew. That’s not who I am, not anymore.” I narrowed my eyes and tapped my chest. “
This
is me, Adam. It’s not just about the fact that my brown eyes are now his color, or that I no longer have the same face; I’m different inside. I’ve changed from the girl I once was in that photograph—the one you never knew. You can’t go through the hell I did without changing. You want me to be someone I’m not.” My voice softened. I cared about Adam, but I never completely understood him. “You never accepted me as a Mage, and now I know it.”

“The hell I haven’t.” He touched my hand and I jerked it away. “I’m not a human, Silver. You can’t hurt me anymore.”

“Don’t get emotionally attached, I’m not wired like that. It would only end badly for you.”

He angrily smiled. “Deny you’ve been involved with Simon. I dare you.”

“What I do is my business.”

“Why won’t you trust me and tell me the truth?” His voice rose, demanding an answer. I got out of the chair and stood over him, shaking my head.

“What is this conversation even about? I don’t know what you want from me, why don’t you tell me?”

He fell silent. There it was, neatly folded in my lap. Adam tugged strings of guilt within me, but it was obvious he wasn’t even sure of his own feelings.

“My heart is not a piñata. I don’t give it away freely, and I don’t think you were ever asking for it. I want you as my friend. Why has that never been enough?” I reached down to touch his hair, but he pulled back and stood up, throwing his disapproval at me. He was punishing me for something I couldn’t help.

“You have no right to be mad at me, Adam. I can’t lead you on if you never asked anything of me. I get more mixed signals from you than a traffic light, and I don’t want there to be any tension between us.”

“You should never have kissed me, then.”

Emotions swirled like one of those whirlpools that suck you to the bottom. It upset me to know that I wouldn’t be able to touch him affectionately without him interpreting it the wrong way—that we wouldn’t be able to move past this weirdness between us. I became the bad guy, but he had no business feeling a sense of entitlement to me for any reason. I had no clue what role he wanted in my life, because he didn’t know himself. My thoughts clouded as anger spilled out in harsh words. I went somewhere I shouldn’t have, but that hindsight thing is a real bitch.

“Maybe you just want to fuck me, is that what this is all about? Just tell me the truth, Adam. If I sleep with you, would that be enough to—”

His body shifted so quickly that I flinched.

“Silver,” he said reaching out to me, “you know I would never strike you.” I backed up and held my arms tightly.

Adam fell silent, staring at the space between us. When he left, his footsteps ruptured through the silent house until he slammed the door behind him. That was our first real fight, and I felt awful about it.

Chapter 6

 

“Why did you bring me here?”

I fidgeted in the booth of the same bar we were in the night before, looking into my Ghuardian’s eyes, tinted with shades of suspicion and wrath. Fine with me; I always loved a good apocalypse.

Justus returned home early, throwing a wrench in my plans. I called Sunny, but it didn’t take the sting away from the fact that I couldn’t see her.

Tonight, Justus wasn’t dressed in expensive threads, but a muscle shirt and loose pants. In fact, that’s what troubled me. I knew something was wrong when he flew out of the training room—dripping in sweat—and told me to get in the car.

He stroked the edgy lines of his tattoo, which was a habit. His eyes fell on me like a jury, and his tongue was the gavel waiting to slam down.

“Tell me, what do you think of this place?”

Like a good defendant, I sipped my vodka and changed the subject. “Did you get that tattoo before you were made?”

“No. In my family, men did not mark themselves.”

“If we heal, how can you have a permanent tattoo?”

“Are you reading the books I give you, or staring at the pictures?”

I joked on occasion about there being no pictures to break up the reading, but his condescending attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I spent months learning our history from his books. Granted most of it was boring, but I made every effort to live up to his expectations.

“Liquid fire seals any scar or tattoo; it’s an ancient extract and only a few know how it is made.”

“Why did you bring me here?” I asked again.

His fingers rapped on the table. “What kind of Ghuardian would I be if I did not allow my Learner to have some fun? I thought this looked like... your kind of place. What do you think?” He stretched his left arm over the back of his seat and flexed his jaw. “Are the men here to your liking?”

“It’s so-so.”

His fist slammed against the table. “Why did you defy my orders? I told you not to leave!”

The bartender polished the bar, watching us closely.

“Are these Mageri rules, or
your
rules?” I hissed.

“Don’t test me.”

“Oh, I’m testing you,” I said, pointing a finger. “Adam has the freedom to leave without an escort. You have kept me in a prison with invisible bars.”

I cringed at the ugly stare looking my way. I should have been grateful for everything he did for me—and I was—but it wasn’t enough.

“How did you know I was here?” I shifted in my seat and the cheap vinyl croaked.

“I don’t have to follow you,
Ember Gates.
Every time you pass off your ID or pay for something, it flags our system. I keep a watch on your account, and I know where you go.”

I huffed loudly. “Good to know, because next time I’m paying with cash.”

He lowered his voice. “I am responsible for you. Your safety is my priority, and I do not approve of your barhopping.”

“I wasn’t barhopping, I was…”

I pursed my lips when the truth almost slipped out. Justus may not have minded the seclusion of his home, but I came from a life where I had a job and went out with friends, and even by myself. My independence was the hardest thing to let go of, and the thought of how many years this could go on frightened me. I rubbed my cheek and saw the bartender from the corner of my eye. He was pretending to arm-wrestle a man who looked like a bouncer by the way they were keeping an eye on our conversation.

“You were just
what
?”

“Having a drink.”

“I do not like secrets,” he said, emphasizing every word.

“Of course not, you wear a
halo
. I live with you, Ghuardian. I’m going to find out, so why can’t you trust me enough to tell me what you do for HALO? I want to know more about your life.”

He leaned forward, lowering his voice. “We work independently from the Mageri, or any other form of government. Two friends organized the group years ago and took an oath to represent and protect all races. There are powerful men consumed with undermining their leaders. We track these unlawful activities and collaborate for the greater good.”

“Sounds like a flea circus.”

“Don’t turn your nose from the fact that we exist to protect your freedoms.”

“You implied people know about HALO, so I just don’t understand the swarm of secrecy. Why is Simon involved if he’s not a member?”

“He has intellect and connections, but Simon is too immature about the politics and refuses to join. We contract his services as needed; the man has skills.”

“You got that right,” I smirked.

I didn’t mean for it to have any hidden innuendos, but to my embarrassment, it spread across the table like a hooker in a brothel. They were old friends, which made it awkward that Simon and I had a careless moment.

“Why did you come here, Learner?”

My lips pressed together like magnets.

“Your nights with Simon are out.”

“You can’t do that!” I shouted. “You can’t—”

Justus scratched his shaved, blond hair. “Punish you? Yes, I can. That is my duty, and if you disobey me again, there will be
no
going out.”

“You cannot cage me up like some kind of animal. I may be under your custody, but I have freedoms.”

“Not under the Mageri. Once you earn my trust, I’ll reconsider the conditions. Until then—“

“Until then, bullshit!” I stood up and threw my finger at his chest. “I am a grown woman, and you should treat me as such.” I snatched his wallet from the table.

“You don’t behave like much of a woman,” he said in a condescending tone. Justus spread his arms across the back of the booth and I was so furious with him I wanted to scream. A plump woman in a red dress slowed down to admire his arms, and bumped into me as she walked past.

“I can’t believe how insensitive you are. This is my life, not a social experiment. I’ve done everything you asked of me; don’t treat me differently because I’m a woman.”

“A Unique woman,” he corrected.

I spun on my heel and marched down the aisle. When he rose from his seat, I shouted to the bartender, “He’s trying to leave without paying!”

I got the hell out of there. Fast.

A fine mist coated my face as I stepped on the curb. Through the window, two men confronted Justus, blocking his exit, and an argument heated up. I plucked the phone from my purse and sprinted up the street.

“Dial-a-friend,” a cheery voice answered.

“Sunny! I’m in the area, where’s your hotel?”

“Where are you?”

“Just passing a bakery on my right.”

“Oh, uh…” she paused. “Do you know the Brooks Hotel?”

“No, is that—”

“I’m coming down,” she decided. “Keep going straight and you’ll see a pizza shop across the street. I’ll meet you there.”

As I ran northbound, I looked back, but didn’t see Justus. I hated my childish behavior around him, but that’s exactly what he treated me like.

It was after sunset and when I passed the third bar, I was getting hammered by heavy rain. It was a couple of minutes struggling not to slip in my shoes when I saw the red neon lights of the pizza place. In fact, I smelled the rich spices before I noticed the sign. I darted across the street, splashing through puddles without a thing to cover my head.

I swung the door open and looked around the room, but Sunny wasn’t in there. A teenager at the soda fountain wearing an anarchy shirt turned around, half smiling at my drenched appearance.

“Can I help you?” a man offered, in a welcoming voice. He had a handlebar mustache and a red apron that barely wrapped around his potbelly.

My shoes squeaked on the linoleum floor. “I’m looking for my friend—blond hair, real pretty?”

“I’m looking for your friend, too!” he laughed.

I rolled my eyes and pushed out the door, the bell jingling behind me.

Standing beneath the short awning, I scoured the streets. It was a torrential downpour, pelting the cars like bullets. I slicked my hair back and tucked my hands beneath my arms, waiting. Five minutes passed and the rain died down. Sunny never showed.

There was no sense standing around when the hotel was up the road. Knowing that girl, she was still searching for the perfect outfit. It looked desolate straight ahead, so I turned right at the next street. In the distance, I saw there were signs on buildings—possibly hotels. Passing another alley, I heard a noise. I thought a dog followed me so I turned to look, but the dumpster obscured my view. I stepped forward, and peered around the edge.

BOOK: Twist
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